Meeting Greeks can take you off course

We took the bus from Athens airport to Piraeus and walked to the Savoy Hotel, which we had booked with the help of business cards saved from our last trip.

For $85, we had a good room where everything—including AC and a TV with BBC—worked, and a plentiful breakfast that included unlimited fresh-squeezed orange juice. The lady at the desk noted glumly that tourism was down and so were salaries.

I caught up with sleep while Irwin bought ferry tickets to Sifnos (36 euro). As this summer’s hopping theme, we decided to explore lesser-known islands.

On the ship, we met an Athenian, Nancy, who spent her summers in Serifos. Since we would only arrive in Sifnos after 9 pm with no reservations, we took her advice and disembarked in Serifos. The travel office informed us that it might be difficult to find a hotel because of the weddings and baptisms that weekend. Five minutes later, we climbed up to Marina Rooms where Marina was happy to offer us a room at 40 euro with fridge and ceiling fan, with a lovely view of the sea and the mountain village of Hora.

We spent time sitting on a private terrace writing, while overlooking a gorgeous, calm bay. We could hear the cicadas, the wind, and see a few dozen boats in the large bay, all white against the brown hills.

Across the bay is the town of Hora/Katros, a cluster of white houses hugging the mountain, with an old, blue-domed church below the peak. This silent village had more empty seats outside cafés than tourists and we happily lazed in one of them, reading and emailing for a couple of hours before heading back down to the port. We did our share of climbing ancient stone stairways to savour the view, the silence and sipped iced tea with lemon.

For swimming, we walked behind our room, down about 50 steps to a beach lined with Tamarind trees. No umbrellas or chaises lounge here, just people sitting on the sand and floating in the lovely bay. The water was just cold enough to be bracing on a hot day, but not enough to require a towel when we got out.

Since this is a tourist town, with mainly Greek and a few French and Moldovan visitors, there are plenty of restaurants, including a row on a stretch of beach. We were disappointed with one, thrilled with the other, at which we shared tzatziki, spicy cheese, eggplant, baked sliced zucchini and Greek salad. For dessert, we headed to the bakery for an island specialty, orange pie, which we ate back at our terrace, overlooking the harbour.

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